Writing from life and the limits of privacy in Gabrielle Carey’s Only Happiness Here

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Abstract

What are the limits to privacy for writers whose work draws from their own lives? And what might be the costs of revealing oneself by “writing from life” in this way? These are questions I have confronted in my creative practice as a life writer, and they are also at the heart of Gabrielle Carey’s 2020 biblio-memoir Only Happiness Here, which examines the life and work of Australian-born novelist Elizabeth von Arnim and their significance to Carey in the aftermath of the “worst year” of her life. The book characterises both Carey and von Arnim – whose novels often fictionalised her personal experiences – as writers deeply concerned with protecting their privacy despite their work being contingent on revealing something of their lives. This essay thus considers the example of Only Happiness Here, along with my own creative writing as a form of practice-led research, to ask how writers of autobiographical narratives can balance the desire for privacy with the writerly impulse to utilise one’s own experiences in one’s work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-71
Number of pages15
JournalWesterly
Volume66
Issue number2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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